Yoruba wedding by Saratu Umar Hambali


Editor’s note: Saratu is a Yoruba girl studying in the University of Maiduguri. She sends in this piece as a contribution to the dissection of the details of Nigerian cultural weddings on our pages.

Yoruba is one of the three largest and most populous ethnic groups in Nigeria. We have over 300 tribes in Nigeria, and each tribe has its own peculiarities. Although some of them have similar traditions, Yoruba as an ethnic group has common traditions and customs generally—the difference being in details of procedure.

The Yorubaland is in the south-western part of the country. It has a population covering approximately at least 35% of Nigeria’s total population with around 40 million individuals throughout the region of West Africa. While majority of them live in western Nigerian, there are also substantial indigenous Yoruba communities in Benin, Ghana, Togo and the Caribbean, thanks NOT to Slave Trade.

The Yoruba are said to have some sort of relation with the Fulani who are said to be, at some time, settlers in Yorubaland. Traditionally, the oba (king) or baale [a noble man] is the head of Yoruba. Major cities and towns of the Yoruba people in Nigeria include: Oyo, Ogun, Kwara, Osun, Lagos and the west of Kogi state. There are other towns and cities with historical affiliation to the Yoruba because they share one or more similarities. Some of these cities are Benin City, Warri, Auchi, Okene, etceter

Yoruba Wedding

The Yoruba wedding otherwise known as igbeyawo, is as distinct and colourful as weddings are to every culture. It is characterised with a beehive of activities that in the circumstance, and details at my disposal, cannot be exhausted. This therefore shall open the path for the discussion.

Like in many cultures, wedding in Yorubaland starts from the decision of a boy and a girl to fall in love—and from there, to get married. But mainstream wedding activities are opened with formal introduction.

When a man finally finds his missing rib and must have come to a conclusion to get married to her, what follows is formal introduction.

Introduction: The groom’s family and the bride’s family will meet for familiarization. After that, a representative will be assigned by the groom’s family to ask the girls hands in marriage after providing the required item which includes: a bag of rice, sugar, kola nuts, palm oil, tubers of yam, a bag of salt and etcetera. After this is in place, the bride’s family makes some investigation and if the result is positive they proceed to negotiating the owo eri (the bride price).

Owo eri Both families negotiate the price to be paid and reach a conclusion. When this is done, it is not necessary to give the money instantly, it can be given on the wedding day, it depends on one’s arrangements.

The bride’s family always has an edge over the choice of date. When the groom’s family proposes, it is always fixed to the convenience of the bride’s family.

With these requirements met, planning for the main marriage activities is put on gear as it continues to draw closer. This is opened with Isun two days to the wedding day, which normally falls on Thursdays.

Ísun This is a Yoruba word, meaning no sleep. Isun is observed on Thursday night. Instead of going to bed, a traditional artist is invited to perform on that night. In the course of the night, different food items are cooked and served—most particular of these is however, hot tea and snacks (of traditional note)—as celebrants, family and friends, dance till dawn.

Waleemah Following these, the next event is the waleemah—for Muslims. This traditionally takes place a day before the wedding which also normally falls on Fridays and the reason for which, I don’t know.

Waleemah is common across cultures and known to almost everyone. It is separately held at the bride’s and the groom’s homes. The groom normally wears a traditional agbada, (Hausa: babban riga) made of aso oke, a traditional fabric; while the bride also wears her aso oke and an overall veil.

Their teacher, who taught them Quran, if available, or anyone in his capacity, will first recite suratul fatiha and the first five ayats of Suratul Baqara. Then the bride/groom will also do the same and then goes around and read to every one seated there [it can be in groups]. Each person they recited to will give them money (no specific amount).

The fifth ayat of Suratul Baqara is normally recited three times. The above activities take place in both the bride’s and groom’s families separately. This means the bride with her people in their house and the groom with his people. It is normally done in the morning and lasts till afternoon.

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The wedding day: On the wedding day, the groom’s family goes to the bride’s house for the egi (Hausa: daurin aure), the wedding formalisation. They go along with the owo eri (dowry) if it’s not paid already. Other items with which they go are Holy Qur’an, white big veil or a hijab, a kettle, praying mat and rosary. These items will be arranged in a big tray and given to the bride. I know some will wonder why these items will be required. It shall be explained in the continuation.

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